According to Islamic teaching, the fetus is not instilled with a soul until some time after gestation begins. The Koran describes various successive stages through which the fetus must pass before it becomes a complete human being.* The period for these stages is not categorically fixed, but there is one entry in the Bukhary (111), a leading collection of the Prophet's Tradition, indicating that the soul does not enter the body of the fetus until the eightieth day of gestation, and other sources extend this period to 120 days. In recent writings the longer period has been cited to permit "justifiable" interruption of pregnancy. Beyond this point interruption is considered infanticide since it will destroy a human being complete with body and soul.
A Fatwa, or an authoritative religious judgment, was issued by Sheikh Abdul-Majid Salim, the Mufti of Egypt in 1937, that abortion is permissible before the fetal movements occur (112). To avoid indiscriminate abortion practices, the Mufti urged invoking "health" reasons. However, these need not be the only reasons for abortion; other welfare reasons can be equally invoked as long as the procedure is performed early in pregnancy. The Fatwa also gave sanction to all types of contraception, although it was emphasized that there be an awareness of human dignity at all times.
Hinduism. Hinduism does not favor abortion as a method of terminating unwanted pregnancy. The Mahabharata stated that letting a women's Rtu [fertile period] go waste was the same as embryo-murder (113). Another statement suggests the restrictive attitude of Hinduism toward abortion: "The killer of a priest, or destroyer of an embryo, casts his guilt on the willing eater of his provisions. . . ." (114).
Nevertheless, very few people in India are aware of this view, and abortion is practiced by an increasing proportion of Indian women. In a sample survey of women in Bombay (115), 16.1 percent approved of abortion for economic reasons or as a woman's right. The foremost reason for disapproval in the remaining 83.9 percent was that the operation was harmful to the mother's health.
Countries with Restrictive Abortion Laws
There is considerable variation among nations with regard to both the extensiveness of induced abortion and the liberalization of abortion laws.
*We placed him A lump [fetus]; Then
As a drop of seed We developed out of that lump
In a safe lodging Bones, and clothed the bones
Firmly affixed; With flesh;
Then fashioned we Then we produced it
The drop into a clot As another creature
Then of the clot So blessed is God
We developed The Best to Create!